Merritt knew, with a fair amount of certainty (because he was a mentalist and that's what mentalists did: they knew stuff with a fair amount of certainty), that he was the odd one out in their ragtag group of magically inclined criminals. Sure, he was older than the rest, but that wasn't what set him apart (not always, at least).
The three kids (because that's what they were, to him) all had their own pasts. He'd deducted that Henley ran away in her teens (and he'd been spot on, thank you very much) and she'd told him her story of a brief but life-changing interaction with a group who were definitively 'the wrong crowd' that ended in her parents bailing her out of jail. That was when she had discovered her natural ability of escaping from handcuffs, much to the non-amusement of the police officers who had her in their custody. Her parents had threatened to throw her out after that escapade, so she left before they could and pursued her future career in magic and escapism. This of course led to her meeting one J. Daniel Atlas, who she had initially gotten on with but had then gotten to know as a person; it wasn't long before she'd had enough of Danny's jibes (she called him Danny because she knew it annoyed him but didn't notice when he actually started to enjoy the fact that Henley had a special nickname for him). After a year and a bit (12 months, seven weeks and three days, she always remembered effortlessly, despite not being aware that she had been counting) she left Daniel to make a name for herself as a solo act, which led to a successful career in Los Angeles.
Then there was Jack, who really was a kid (he couldn't even legally buy alcohol yet and, in Merritt's book, nothing says 'child' more than that little fact). He'd had a pretty awful childhood that featured brief (and sometimes not-so-brief) spells of homelessness and a father who wasn't physically abusive but who cared so little for Jack that the kid might as well not have been there at all. His mother had died so long ago Jack couldn't remember how she had treated him, but he remembered a kind face and a soothing voice, so she can't have been all bad. Unlike Henley, his pickpocketing abilities were not a talent but had come from years of having to survive off his own back; perfection comes from practice and Jack had had a lot of practice. He truly did idolise Daniel, which Merritt found odd because the two couldn't be more different, yet the dedication Jack put in to mastering everything Danny taught him (be it directly or indirectly) really was sort of touching, and Merritt put it down to the fact that Jack had never really had a father figure worthy of being idolised.
Then there was, of course, the famous, yet mysterious, J. Daniel Atlas, whose name was a mystery in itself: he stubbornly refused to tell any of the Horsemen what the 'J' stood for; not even Henley knew, which drove Merritt insane because he was supposed to know things and he just couldn't work out what that 'J' was in place of. In the few months that Merritt had known him, he had discovered several things about Daniel: 1. That he most definitely was a control freak which meant that 2. He was incredibly specific about anything and everything he ever did, meaning that 3. He reacted very badly if things didn't work out how he wanted them to in the respect that, in these events, 4. He had frequent panic attacks.
Merritt had discovered all of this about Daniel on one fateful day when the showman had been sick with the flu and Henley had put on her 'scary face' (which truly was terrifying), stubbornly refusing to let him come to a rehearsal for a show they were doing in Florida to spread their name around a bit. They had left him alone in their apartment and went to rehearsal; when Merritt returned that evening with Henley and Jack, he was burdened with the task of taking some freshly made chicken soup to Daniel after Henley insisted on purchasing it from, in her words, a 'quaint little café'. He entered Daniel's room to find the man sat on the floor, hugging his knees to his chest, surrounded by plans for their show with tear tracks on his face and his breaths coming in short, irregular gasps for air. Merritt had panicked for a second before abandoning the soup on Daniel's desk and slowly guiding the man back to sanity with quiet words of comfort and a strong arm around his shoulders. When he was calm enough to function properly, Daniel explained (of his own accord, which shocked Merritt slightly) that his mother had rather aggressive obsessive compulsive disorder that she passed onto him in the form of needing to be in control at all times because otherwise people might do things wrong and how can something wrong be successful? Merritt assured him that no one would judge him but that he'd keep Daniel's past and present a secret if that's what he wanted.
"Thanks," Daniel had replied, looking away from Merritt almost sheepishly. Then a small smirk appeared on his face as he looked back, "And the 'J' stands for Jeremiah." Merritt's eyes had widened.
"Really?!" he'd asked, shocked. Daniel's smirk grew as he snorted.
"Of course not," he replied, "My parents actually wanted me to be successful in life. Have you ever heard of a famous Jeremiah?!"
Merritt had thrown a few choice hand gestures his way, leaving the man alone again with orders to eat his soup and get better so that he could dictate their rehearsals once again.
All of the information Merritt knew regarding the other Horsemen allowed him to know, with a fair amount of certainty, that he was the odd one out. Of course he had a rather displeasing past, just as the others did, but they didn't know what it was like to have something and lose it. Merritt had lost everything he had because his own brother turned on him. Sure, that's a clear indicator of a dysfunctional family, but that was something the McKinneys had never been.
Merritt had grown up in a little suburban house on a quiet little street in a happy family. He had loving parents who always supported him and an older brother who was more like a best friend. Merritt sometimes found it strange as a child that nothing he ever did embarrassed his brother; the older boy would just laugh it off, ruffling his hair or punching his shoulder playfully.
When he'd discovered mentalism, Merritt had dazzled his friends by doing reads on strangers they saw in the town. When one of the group then interrogated said strangers about what Merritt had inferred from their body language and attitude and general attire (though he told his friends it was mind reading, because that was far more impressive) they found that Merritt had been completely right and his confidence grew.
Then he'd discovered hypnosis and it was wild and exciting and something completely outside his comfort zone but with his friends feeding his ego, he found it surprisingly easy to grasp enough confidence to hypnotise someone effectively. Over time, his confidence grew more, and when he got to college he started using his little tricks to make money and get girls. He guessed (his memory of those years was foggy at best) that this was when his brother first showed interest in either of his gifts. It wasn't long before his brother was encouraging him to take it further and, being the older, wiser sibling, Merritt went along with it, not once questioning his motives. He dropped out halfway through his second year of college, appointed his brother as his manager and started planning for a career that would bring him fame and fortune.
It took five years, but eventually Merritt's name was passed around until his was America's next great hypnotist. His first shows were bigger than any he'd had before but still small in terms of show business. He stayed in California, mostly, because anything will pass there, growing more and more famous with each show because he was good at what he did and people appreciated that. At the age of twenty seven, he was offered his first tour and it was absolutely huge. He remembered crying like a five year old girl when his brother rang him with the news, immediately calling his parents to tell them. They told him they were proud and that everyone in his hometown was talking about him.
He wished he'd known then how quickly his time in the spotlight would end; maybe then he could have minimised the damage somewhat. He'd been touring the US on and off for six years and one day, he went to pay for his lunch from his credit card to have it denied. Luckily, the waitress and her manager were fans of his and said he could have his food on the house. He went straight to an ATM to find his account empty. It was void of any money he'd made in the last twelve years. He called his bank, who said that his money had been transferred, with the permission of 'Mr McKinney', into another account.
Merritt returned to the apartment he had been sharing with his brother to find a note written in said brother's identifiable scrawling handwriting:
Merritt had never spoken to his brother again, disappearing for a number of years before going back to his college ways, using mentalism and hypnotism to make money, except, this time, he made a point of making sure that no one he met would be screwed over my someone they loved. He stayed true to this up to the day he received his invitation from the Eye, making sure that the woman who came into the café with her cheating husband wouldn't have both her marriage and her relationship with her sister ruined.
In truth, the only reason he agreed to join the Horsemen at first was because they would be returning things to those who had lost them, restoring justice to those who had been cheated. If Merritt was to be remembered for anything, he wanted to be remembered for helping people escape the fate he himself had fallen prey to. The respect, and then love, that he held for the other Horsemen came later but only intensified his need to stop people getting hurt.
Merritt knew, with a fair amount of certainty, that he was the odd one out in their ragtag group of magically inclined criminals. Not because he was older, or because his act was all educated guessing and people skills and no actual precision or control, or because he had had his fair share of ups and downs in life.
Merritt was different because he was the one who reminded the other Horsemen that they still had something to lose. He was there to make sure they never forgot that, no matter how famous or successful you get, it can all come crashing down to nothing. And that was something none of the other Horsemen could offer.
Hello there! This was my first venture into the NYSM fandom; this idea just wouldn't let me go so I wrote it in 50 minutes and here it is! I'm hoping for this to be a four-shot: one chapter from the POV of each of the Horsemen. Possibly a five/six-shot, depending on whether or not I have enough ideas for Dylan and Alma! For context: this is written to take place approximately four months after the Horsemen's initial meeting. The backstories in this are completely of my creation (I tried to go for something I've never read before but still made sense) and so I have been using my little Creative License (as awarded to all authors!). I shall now stop babbling to say three important things:
1. Reviews are rays of sunshine that will make my day so pretty please leave one!
2. I may update this regularly or I may not; if you'd like me to continue, throw this story a follow!
3. Thank you ever so much for reading!